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Helicopter crash puts spotlight on safety of reality TV shows

February 10, 2013|By Richard Verrier

A helicopter crash in northern Los Angeles County that killed three people Sunday -- one of the worst film set accidents in recent years -- is likely to further fuel debate over whether working conditions on reality TV programs are unsafe.

Three people were killed in a helicopter crash early Sunday morning at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in a remote area near Soledad Canyon Road in Acton, authorities said. Polsa Rosa Ranch is a popular location for filming movies and TV shows and was also where a diver working on the Disney movie "The Lone Ranger" drowned in September while prepping a tank for an underwater shooting scene.

Sunday's incident occurred during production of a reality TV show called "Untitled Military Project" for the Discovery Channel, according to a permit filed with FilmL.A. Inc., which had granted permission to film a helicopter landing and takeoff at the site from 5 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday.

The show was being produced by Eyeworks USA, formerly 3 Ball Productions, best known for its "Biggest Loser" series. Producers had to get clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the accident, said Phil Sokoloski, spokesman for FilmL.A.

"It's a grievous accident and our hearts go out to the people affected by it," said Sokoloski, adding that he had no other details. He said FilmL.A. did not have a monitor on the set, but the L.A. County Fire Department did assign an advisor to the site.

In a statement Eyeworks USA said: "We can confirm that a helicopter crash occurred this morning while shooting a new series for a cable network, which resulted tragically in three fatalities. We are cooperating fully with the authorities. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those involved."

"A production company was shooting a show for Discovery Channel when this tragic accident occurred," Discovery said in a statement. "We are all cooperating fully with authorities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families."

The incident is the worst film set accident in California since 1982, when star Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed by a helicopter that crashed into them during filming of "Twilight Zone: The Movie." The deaths led to scrutiny of safety standards and prompted tougher rules for film crews.

Sunday's helicopter crash could bring more scrutiny to the reality TV sector. A recent report in the Los Angeles Times highlighted how some reality TV programs are cutting corners on safety, exposing cast and crew to hazardous working conditions. A combination of tight budgets, lack of trained safety personnel and pressure to capture dramatic footage has caused serious and in some cases fatal incidents, the Times report showed.

ALSO:

'Lone Ranger' crew member dies on the set

Three people killed in helicopter crash in Acton

Reality shows may put crews too close to cutting edge

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